Welcome to the Leviathan Index

3 Responses to “Welcome to the Leviathan Index”

  1. 1 Kate January 7, 2009 at 12:04 am

    A blog?! How wonderful! I can’t wait!

  2. 2 Don February 2, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Hi Boo,

    Duncan just filled me in on your Leviathan gig. I had no idea you had such an interest.

    As you do your research, perhaps you can keep an eye open for a facet of Hobbes that has fascinated me since I stidied him in Poli Sci in college and then studied law several years later. My inquiry relates to hobbes as the “father” of the social contract theory. (At least that’s what he was called when I studied him 45 years ago)

    My point of interest is based on my feeling that the whole idea of the social contract seems to be the product of a trained legal mind, just as so much of our U.S. fundamental documents like the Declaration and the Constitution are clearly the work of people schooled in the law. When I studied the common law, I concluded that the social contract just had to be the produce of someone with a classical British legal education..someone from the Ins of Court who had labored over Coke Upon Littleton.

    I did take some time in law school to go back to Hobbes to check out my theory…but not a lot. I recall that I found that his education was NOT legal, but more scientific in nature. Soooooo, I’ve always wondered if there is any legal connection in his background to test my theory that the social compact theory was the product of a trained legal mind.

    Maybe you can fill in the blank.

    DBS got me into your blog, and I enjoyed reading all the entries. What a fantastic experience for you


  3. 3 leviathanindex February 2, 2009 at 10:17 am


    You flatter me. Thank you for visiting the blog and making such important comments. Hobbes, as you may know, was educated at Magdalen Hall ( poor sister of a school attached to the ancient and famous Magdalen College, Oxford). For reasons I do not know, Magdalen is pronounced “Maudlin” over here. I have already embarrassed myself by pronouncing the “g” in a conversation with three or four professors at the Oxford Union. You can take the boy out of Lumberton but . . .

    Hobbes only “formal” higher education was the undergraduate degree he got at Oxford. He did, however, educate himself as a tutor for the Cavendish family (going with young William Cavendish to Cambridge for a term or two) and as a member of a couple of “intellectual circles” which included both clergy and lawyers. Hobbes traveled a number of times to the Continent, as Cavendish’s tutor and also as tutor to the young Charles II (before he became king after the Restoration). Hobbes father, by the way, was a protestant clergyman, who was kicked out of the church and died in poverty and disgrace.

    Hobbes seems to have developed his Social Contract theory as a philosophical enterprise (political science then being a branch of philosophy) and as a theological formulation — the concept of “Covenant” (ala the Scottish Covenanters) being prominent in his works, particularly The Leviathan. Hobbes was also a passionate student of the new scientific theories of his time, and he believed that it was possible as a work of pure reason to develop the foundations of civil governance.

    His first major work, “The Elements of Law”, lays out this philosophical and rational approach to law and politics. The funny thing is, he seems to have never formally studied juris prudence and he had no formal training as a lawyer. John Locke and Jean Jacque Rousseau both owe much more to traditional legal education in their later (less theoretical) development of Hobbes’s concept of social contract. And most agree that it is Locke (far more than Hobbes) whom the framers of our Constitution relied on in their drafting of the American social contract. Well . . . you surely got my head working on Groundhog’s Day in Oxford . . . Phil sure as hell ain’t going to see his shadow here today!

    All the best.


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